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coming up, deborah potter on the controversial life of the late dorothy day. she was a convert to catholicism who fed the poor, defied authority, opposed all war, and is now being considered for sainthood. and this weekend of the grammy awards, kim lawton looks at the new mainstream success for contemporary christian music. ♪
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welcome. i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. there was more attention this week to the ethical debate weaponized drones in the war on terror. the discussion came amid a senate intelligence committee confirmation hearing for john brennan, nominated to be the next head of the cia. brennan helpelead the obama adminisation's largely secret drone program. a leaked memo revealed the justice department's view that it is legal for the government to kill u.s. citizens overseas if it believes they pose an "imminent threat," even if there is no evidence of an immediate specific attack. some ethicists say that amounts to illegal targeted killings. >> they are not the best strategy, they are not ethically right, and they are not morally right.
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after much campaigning by outside groups obothides, t boy scouts postponed until may a decision on lifting its ban on gay scouts and leaders. several conservative religious organizations were particularly vocal in their opposition to lifting the ban. there was also some religious support for changing the policy. about 70% of boy scout troops are sponsored by religious groups, the largest of which are mormons, followed by united methodists and catholics. as faith groups continue to push for comprehensive immigratn rerm, some are now raising concerns over president obama's support for same-sex couples in his plan. the president wants to give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to sponsor a partner for a visa.
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in a letter to the white house this week, the u.s. catholic bishops and some evangelicals objected to obama's proposal. they are otherwise strong supporters of immigration reform. the president joed a host of political, diplomatic and religious leaders for the annual national prayer breakfast on thursday. by tradition, participants put aside differences to pray for the nation and the world. obama told the group he wished that spirit would continue after the breakfast as well. >> you'd like to think that the shelf life wasn't so short. [ laughter ] but i go back to the oval office and i start watching the cable news networks and it's like we didn't pray. >> at the breakfast, the president announced that his longtime point-man on faith issues, joshua dubois, was stepping down as head of the white house office of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships. former los angeles archbishop, cardinal
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roger mahony, strongly defended his handling of clergy sex abuse after newly released documents revealed the extent to which mahony protected abusive priests. mahony was recently rebuked by his successor archbishop jose gomez, who relieved him of any public duties. in a letter to gomez, mahony said he sought advice from other bishops, and he called the archdiocese under his charge "second to none in protecting children and youth." he also said gomez was aware of the church's actions and never previously raised any concerns. the vatican's new sex crimes prosecutor this week urged the catholic church to be transparent in confronting the sex abuse crisis. father robert olivera boston canon lawyer, acknowledged th church had failed in the past. he also praised the media for
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helping the church to face "what is true." in colorado, a catholic hospital that is being sued for wrongful death admitted it was "morally wrong" when it tried to defend itself by citing a state law that says fetuses are not people. the lawsuit was brought by a man whose pregnant wife died in the emergency room. he argued the doctor should have deiver the twins she was caring. the hospital's lawyers originally responded by saying it could not be sued for those deaths since under the state's wrongful death law, fetuses are not considered legal persons. after meeting with local catholic bishops, the hospital changed its argument. it also called the state law "unjust." we remember today the faithful and controversial life of the late dorothy day, a woman
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now on the long, complicated path to catholic sainthd. lastall,he u. biops unanimously endorsed day's sainthood cause. day was known for feeding the poor and homeless, for opposing war and injustice and for founding "the catholic worker", which began publishing 80 years ago this year and is still coming out, for a penny a copy. deborah potter is our correspondent. >> reporter: on the lower east side of manhattan, just a few blocks from the bowery, the line forms early outside st. joseph house. four times a week, volunteers make gallons of soup from scratch and each day feed more than a hundred men. >> people here personally emulate christ. i'm not christian, but i could really respect that. >> reporter: donations keep the soup line going. st. joseph's takes no government money. volunteers pray quietly before opening the door to those they call their guests, and they
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protect their privacy. no pictures allowed once the meal begins. st. joseph's is a house of hospitality run by the catholic worker movement, started i 1933 by dorothy day. born in 1897 to a middle-class family, day dropped out of college to become a journalist and activist in new york. she wrote for socialist newspapers like "the call" and demonstrated against the first world war. she also fell in love. >> she was very young. she found she was pregnant. he said he would leave her if she didn't have an abortion, so she did and then he left her anyway. >> reporter: robert ellsberg got to know day near the end of her life and edited her letters and diaries. >> people have an idea that she was somehow sort of scary, because she looks so serious in so many pictures. the funny thing is that anybody who knew her, the primary thing you remember about her, her characteristic, was her laughter
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and how funny she was. >> reporter: in her late 20s, day lived with a fellow radical whom she adored but who opposed both marriage and religion. then she learned she was pregnant again, and that changed everything. dorothy day converted to catholicism at the age of 30 and was baptized in this church near her home in staten island. she turned to god, she said, in gratitude and joy over the birth of her only child. she broke off with the baby's father and raised her daughter alone, still working as a journalist but searching for a way to connect her social values to her deepening faith. the answer was to start "the catholic worker," a newspaper priced at a penny that's still published today, and that provided funds for a growing movement to help the poor. >> if your broth is hungry, yofeed him. you don't meet him at the door and say, "go be thou filled," or "wait for a few weeks, and you'll get a welfare check." you sit him down and feed him.
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and so that's how the soup kitchen started. >> reporter: jane sammon joined the catholic worker movement near the end of day's life. >> here was a group of people who really, really were talking issues about the poor, but they were also living among people who were poor. they weren't just speaking about it from a distance. they were willing to risk suffering for their belief, going to jail perhaps. >> reporter: day herself was arrested and jailed multiple times. this iconic photo of her last arrest at the age of 75 while supporting striking farm workers hangs in "the catholic worker" newspaper office in new york. she led antiwar demonstrations for decades and refused to pay taxes. for day, the catholic worker wasn't just about good works. it was meant to be volionary. >>the catholic worker is essentially a school, you might
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say. i mean, it's a place where you -- where you -- a lot of young people come to us. it's a pacifist, anarchist movement, and they come to us to learn more about this point of view of beginning a change from the bottom up, rather than from the top down through unions and credit unions. you do away with banks by credit unions. you do away with interest. you do away with by mutual aid. you do away with possession of goods by sharing. >> reporter: dorothy day spent her final years at this catholic worker house in manhattan, where she died in 1980. now, she's on the road to sainthood, with the unanimous support of the u.s. conference of catholic bishops. >> all those in favor of supporting moving forward, please indicate by saying aye. >> aye. >> opposed? >> thank you, good to hear. >> reporter: new york archbishop timothy dolan is leading the cause, calling day a saint for our times. >> so there was sexual
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immorality, there was a religious search, and there was a pregncy out of wedlock and an abortion. her life, of course, like saul on the way to damascus, was radically changed when she became introduced to jesus christ and his church, and after that she became an apostle. >> reporter: day already has her own stained glass window in the church where she was baptized. her image has been made into icons. but some in the catholic worker movement are leery of the push for sainthood. >> the fact that dorothy day had an abortion, to say, well, now she's going to be labeled the right-to-life saint -- to m these diminish this beauful spirit that was larger than any one particular part. >> i don't want her to be the saint who had an abortion. i want her to be the mother of one and the grandmother. you know, that's who she was. >> reporter: joanne kennedy is managing editor of "the catholic worker." >> you can't know dorothy day and not know about her pacifism and her commitment to the works of mercy, although that gets a
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little more play. but her pacifism gets almost none. >> the thing that primarily drew me to "the catholic worker" initially was that there was a catholic entity that was seriously, but seriously antiwar. it doesn't appear that some of the bishops who want her to be a saint. it doesn't appear that they care for her. >> reporter: day didn't care all that much for the catholic hierarchy, either. she was a faithful, traditional catholic whose life was steeped in prayer, but her longtime friends say she was also an independent woman. >> she said there were so many popes and abbots and bishops who -- they were -- those were not the models to foll. the models were the sats, and it was theaints who nstaly replenished the church. the saints and the sacraments. >> she'd say, "don't call me a saint. i don't want to be dismissed that easily." >> what particularly she didn't like about it was this idea, i
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think, of being, you know, treated as some exceptional person who would let other people off the hook. >> reporter: those who knew her best say dorothy day wouldn't care one way or another about being canonized. >> the important thing wouldn't be that. the important thing would be how well are we doing the work that we're supposed to be doing, you know? how well are we living a gospel life? >> there are certain kinds of people, like a dorothy day, who kind of stop us in our tracks because they represent something new. they represent a way of being faithful in response to the particular challenges of our time, and they kind of invent a new way of being faithful to christ, and i think dorothy day certainly did that. >> reporter: she also left a legacy. there are now more than 200 catholic worker houses all over the world, more than when she was alive, each one independent, serving the poor, and passionate about peace. >> i just truly believe that she remains with us and through her grace and the holy spirit, grace
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of the whole communion of saints that looks out for us, which is absolutely the only way that we continue to survive, we're just led. >> reporter: the path to formal sainthood can take decades. for many who believe in what dorothy day stood for, she's already there. >> i have no doubt that she's a saint. none whatsoever. >> reporter: f "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm deborah potter in staten island, new york. ♪ in other news, the worldwide anglican communion has a new spiritual leader. justin welby was confirmed this week as the next archbishop of canterbury. at a traditional ceremony in london, the former oil executive swore allegiance to the queen and her successors. welby is to be formally
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enthroned on march 21. on our calendar this week, western christians will begin observing lent, the 40-day period of prayer and fasting before easter. the season begins with ash wednesday, when many receive an ash mark of penance on their foreheads. and sunday is chinese new year, when the year of the dragon ends and the year of the snake begins. on new year's eve, people will go to the temples and pray for od ftuneor t newear. this is grammy awards weekend, when the music industry honors its top artists. among the many categories for awards are gospel and contemporary christian music -- both defined by the content of their lyrics rather than by their music styles, and both experiencing growing success in the mainstream. kim lawton has our report.
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♪ >> reporter: this is christian recording artist tobymac in concert. he's bringing the house down and shattering lots of stereotypes along the way. >> toby blows everybody's perception of what christian or gospel music is, 'cause toby makes jesus look cool. >> i definitely have my ear to the ground as far as sically what is happening. i've always been a pop artist, you know. i rap, i sing, i scream, whatever gets the point across. >> reporter: experts say thanks to artists like tobymac, the contemporary christian music industry is experiencing a revival, with strong sales, record-breaking tours, and new success in the mainstream charts. for three consecutive weeks last fall, the billboard 200 chart included christian albums that
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debuted in the top ten. one of them was tobymac's "eye on it," which was the first christian album since 1997 to debut at number one. and it was only the third christian album ever to debut on at the top of billboard's all-genre chart. that success is continuing in 2013. in mid-january, christian artist chris tomlin's new album "burning lights" opened at number one. >> it shows the power of the christian music consumer. for people who tend to want to relegate christian gospel music, you know, to the basement, you know, when an act like chris or tobymac comes in at number one, you have to give that music its due. >> reporter: deborah evans price has covered christian music for "billboard" magazine for almost 20 years. >> they sold nearly 23 million albums last year in the christian gospel market, and that niche market is bigger than
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other smaller genres, like jazz, classical, latin. i think what's wonderful about this genre of music is that the musicians are just interpreting a timeless message in the music that's relevant today and that keeps younger listeners coming and widening the demographic. >> rerter: take, for example, christian rapper lecrae, whose newest album "gravity" debuted last september at number three on the billboard charts. in his music and his publicity, lecrae is outspoken about his christian faith. >> i'd be, you know, crazy to not talk about the thing that's most passionate to me and that is my faith. you know, how can i leave that out? it's all that i am. it defines me. >> reporter: that wasn't always the case. lecrae says he grew up with few positive male influences and
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looked to hip-hop for guidance. he wanted nothing to do with his grandmother's christian faith. >> i really mocked it. i thought it was silly. it was for old people. i remember one time ripping out bible papers and using them to roll drugs up with. so it was -- it really didn't matter to me. >> reporter: his life became a downward spiral of drugs and partying, but he says before he reach 20, he realizedhe emptess of it all. someone invited him to attend a christian meeting and study the bible, and he says to his shock, the classic christian teaching about salvation really struck a chord. >> the simple truth that if there is a god he did love me enough to sacrifice himself for me, like no human being would ever come up with the story that says, god reached down to bring me up. and that really -- it rocked me in a way i'd never been rocked. >> reporter: now he ra not only about his religious beliefs, but about being a
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faithful husband and a responsible father -- not typical themes in hip-hop. >> when you hear -- turn on the radio and you hear all these perspectives and philosophies, misogyny and you know, hedonism, most christians say, "i got to find the christian station to get away from this." how beautiful would it be if christians were to invade the airwaves of mainstream culture and give an alternate view to some of those things, right? >> reporter: lecrae has found an audience in both the christian and secular markets, something that appears to be happening more and more. >> the walls have come down considerably over the past few years when it comes to the divide between the christian audience, the christian market and mainstream consumers. when you have artists like toby and lacrae, and all these phenomenally relevant, musically edgy acts, that draws a wide audience, not just from the people in the church pews, but from the people hanging out at
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the mall. >> reporter: it used to be that when christian artists crossed over into the mainstream, they watered down the religious content of their music. but the rock band skillet has achieved huge mainstream success despite its explicitly christian identity. the group was one of only three rock bands overall to go platinum in 2012. >> there's been no muddling their identity. they've always been, you know, very outspoken about being a christian band that makes great rock music. >> reporter: tobymac says he's pleased to see some of the barriers coming down. >> jesus didn't hang out in the church. he hung out with the people, where they were. and that's to me where christian music should be. >> reporter: he first entered the music scene in the late
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1980s as part of the ground-breaking christian hip-hop group dc talk. more than 20 years later, he says he's moved away from direct preaching in his music and now tries to write more from his own life experiences. >> i do think that i have something really good. so when you have something really good you can't help but want to share it with people. i'm not trying to cram it down their throat. i'm not trying to proselytize. i'm just a guy that loves god with all my heart, when i'm at my best. >> reporter: and he says he's become more open about his weaknesses. one of his most popular songs, "get back up," is about how he responded to a friend getting a divorce. >> i wrote that song because i
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probably wasn't there for him the way i should have been. >> reporter: he says for him, it's not about cranking out hits and making money, but rather watching how god uses the music to touch people's lives. for example, he's heard from several people who say his recent song "forgiveness" prompted them to reconcile with an estranged loved one. >> when things like that are happening, i mean, you know, i think that's way beyond me. i mean, that's why i have faith in god, because i know i can't conjure up a lyric that would do that. but if god breathes something through me when i ask him to, maybe some good could happen. >> reporte: both tobymac and lecrae have been criticized some in the christian world for pushing the envelope too far. lecrae in particular came under fire for collaborating with secular rappers who often use
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offensive lyrics in other venues. >> sometimes i'm too churchy for the world, i'm too worldly for the church and so i exist in this weird, you know, dichotomy, this weird place, but there's a lot of people like me and there's a lot of people who resonate with that. >> reporter: he too sees deeper purpose in what he does. >> my hope is that it will be more than music, that it would be a soundtrack of a movement that mobilizes people to see themselves for who they are, for what god created them to be, and, and to change the world. >> reporter: and that's not something you hear every day in the music business. i'm kim lawton reporting. >> both tobymac and lecrae have been nominated for grammys this year. > tha's or prografor no i'm bob abernethy.
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you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us anytime on the pbs app for iphones and ipads. there's much more on our website, including more of kim lawton's interviews with tobymac and lecrae. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at as we leave you, tobymac. ♪ ♪
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Religion Ethics Newsweekly
PBS February 10, 2013 10:00am-10:30am PST

Mainstream Christian Music; The Life of Do... News/Business. (2013) The growth of Christian music; the life of Dorothy Day, an activist who helped the poor. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Dorothy 7, Us 6, New York 4, Kim Lawton 4, U.s. 3, Deborah Potter 3, Mahony 3, Manhattan 2, Tobymac 2, Staten Island 2, Bob Abernethy 2, Colorado 1, Antiwar 1, Lastall 1, Los Angeles Archbishop 1, Us At 1, Latin 1, Damascus 1, Grammys 1, Pbs 1
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